Robert Culat - A Metal Priest interview (12/2010)
|Conducted by:||Darkside Momo, otto (in person)|
Hellfest 2010 saw a huge amount of critics and bashing from Catholic groups, due to, as always, "satanic bands", "satanic lyrics", and stuff. Most of those religiously-minded people accused Hellfest to "propagate the culture of death", and so on.
But it was soon plain to see that, if Christian people could (rightly) be shocked by some metal lyrics, the only ones engaged in anti-Hellfest activities were quite the extremists.
Given the rising controversy, this was the perfect time to discuss this difficult topic with Robert Culat.
This man is a Catholic priest. Who wrote a book about metal. And who is a metalhead too. Hey, he even came to Hellfest this year, to sign his book and see some shows!
This interview, originally planned during the fest itself, was rescheduled a bit later, and here it is finally online…
Beware, it's a long read, as we talked for almost an hour!
A few notes on this lawsuit topic. The whole anti-Hellfest affair somehow culminated with the AFC ['Christian Families Association'] suing Hellfest, to force Hellfest and the bands to give them beforehand the lyrics of the songs bands were about to play. They lost.
Afterwards, during Hellfest, there was a meeting between Christian and metal representatives (including Ben Barbaud for Hellfest, Father Robert Culat, Father Domergue, Stéphane Buriez of Loudblast, and one AFC representative) which got broadcasted on a local TV channel.
DM: Well, I'll first need you to introduce yourself shortly… How did you became both a Catholic priest and a metalhead?
Father Robert Culat: OK, let's make it short then! I was born in Marseille in 1968, in a family who weren't practicing Catholics. I discover faith and Christianism when I was 13, and so I became a convert, and already felt the call to become a priest (even thought I first spoke about it when I was 15). I followed literary studies, and I had my baccalauréat [that's the French degree which validates high school studies]; after that I entered the seminary in Avignon. I was 18. After the first two years, I did my national military service; afterwards, the bishop sent me to Rome to finish my studies. Five years later, in 1993, I was ordained as a priest for Avignon's diocese. And right now [july 2010], I'm getting ready to move to Copenhagen for 3 years, to serve the French who live there.
DM: So this is how you became a priest, but how did you end up listening to metal?
RC: It was, let's say, in a really unexpected but simple way. My musical education, by my parents and family, was only classical music… I didn't even listen to the radio, or to stuff for young people… I didn't even know about it when I was a teenager! So, well, metal… That was something completely unknown to me! And, in 1994, I met at the public high school's chaplaincy two long-haired guys, dressed in black… There it is! And well, I didn't have a clue about what this appearance stood for - hey, it was the first time I saw it - so I was puzzled, especially as it was in a catholic setting. So that's what is original, and it probably explains my future approach: I discovered metal in a catholic setting.
DM: And then you completely fell into it and became a metalhead!
RC: It happened almost overnight. I mean, there was a paradox: these youngsters were at the same time Catholics at 17 years old (which is not really common in France nowadays), and musicians. They weren't only music fans, they also had a band, called Cortège [you can find their old website here, but it's in French]. So, the first time I really heard metal, it was them, they were rehearsing in their garage. So, for me, it was at first my intellectual curiosity which pushed me to delve into this. Into this paradox. And at first it was just an object of study like any other.
And after that, well, because it's music… You listen to it as an object of study at first. And after that, you either like it or not. That's it! So after some time I found some things that I loved, others that I didn't. So, it became a pleasure, it's wasn't anymore the 'let's study this album or this interview', it became a pleasure for me as I was accustomed to this sound. That was my experience, and I think it's really important to mention to non-metalheads that there's a time during which our ears must get used to this sound that is new, and disturbing because of its aggressive nature.
And, delving deeper into the subject, I finally did this 'questionnaire' in 2000, with a book as the final objective; it really was to have a database.
DM: OK! We'll talk about the book a bit later, but before I wanted to ask you… Isn't being both priest and metalhead a bit contradictory, isn't it sometimes difficult to live?
RC: I just told you that I discovered this music thanks to two young Catholics…
DM: Yeah, but there's this contradictory side to it…
RC: My point precisely! It's not that contradictory because, as I found out since I'm in this metal culture, because there are much more Catholic people than what is usually supposed!
DM: In your book you evaluate that to about 15%, right?
RC: 15% of believers, not only Catholics. But sure, in France, it's mostly Christians.
DM: And do you know some other priests or religious people that are metalheads?
RC: Yes, and they are all known on the web, you know them like I do, don't you? There the Italian Brother, he even sings in a band, it's much more than me… And he's much older too. There's also the famous Canadian priest, this one is really funny, really old too… These was a video on Québec TV, he was showing his disks, it was quite extraordinary… And, even in France, I know at least two or three others… And some of them are much more metal fans than I am, because they started when they were teenagers, before becoming priests! While me…
DM: This is not necessarily a criteria of fandom…
RC: They have a longer history with metal.
DM: Have you already used metal music during a mass?
RC: Only once, in fact. One day, during a confirmation, I knew some young guys and I asked them to liven up a bit the mass with music, and they did it… There were various instruments, including an electric guitar. And so, for the offertory, I asked Victor (his band is also featured in the book): "Well, you're in a band, so can't you play something soft and beautiful? Even if it's metal." And he did play some Metallica. No one ever knew what it was, but it's the kind of things that go very smoothly! (smiles)
DM: And you never did it again? Or, I don't know, played a song… I guess some white metal songs could do the trick…
RC: No… The opportunity didn't happen again. I had someone who played the guitar, that I knew personnaly… He played during the mass and that's it!
DM: OK… Now, let's get back to your book, "L'Age Du Metal" ('The Age Of Metal', or 'The Metal Age', your choice). You already spoke about the questionnaire you sent to people. How did it happen exactly, and what did you do afterwards? Describe us the book a bit, as it is translated in English!
RC: Well, once I sent the questionnaire - mainly thanks to the addresses I found in the metal magazines' classified advertising - I collected the answers. 552 of them, coming from all corners of France. I entered all answers on my computer, then I entrusted the analysis of the results to two metalheads I knew. I needed people that loved mathematics, that loved statistics, and that's not me in any case! They split up the work, did the synthesis, and handed me that in various graphics and percentages, and then I worked with this basis (while referencing the original questionnaires, that I of course kept). That's what gave birth to the first part of the book, which is the result of this survey, 'Metal In France'. Question after question, I comment the results, enrich them with other information I got from magazines, interviews, and personal knowledge…
The second part of the book, that I all put under 'Appendix'... Well there are a lot of them, and I didn't write them all, as I used the help of a few collaborators for those. These appendix are very varied, it's about metal albums artwork, lyrics, or about the different metal subgenres… This, because I wrote this book not only for people who know metal, but also possibly for some who know naught about it… So this person wants to know what black, death, doom metal are, and she'll find definitions which are… quite well done and expansive. And of course in this second part there are a lot more writings and reflections about the connection between religion and metal, faith and metal.
DM: And so with this work you were able to draw a portrait of the typical metalhead in France, so to speak. What is it?
RC: Yes, and it was criticized a lot! Because of course people don't like this kind of stuff, they think they're being put in a box. This is the conclusion of the first part of the book, where I say he's 24 years old blablabla. Well, of course I'm not dumb enough to believe all people will fit into this pattern! By definition, this kind of generic portrait really means "what are the important points that stick out, what are the dominant trends…" After that, each person is unique, and in metal too. Well. One of the first points I noticed was the age; and it's not only my results, but for example Fabien Hein got exactly the same results, and Anthony Aubert too. That's funny because many studies in France always give 24 years old as the medium age. So there's certainly something true and objective behind that.
DM: If a result is reproducible or repeats itself, yes.
RC: Yeah, it is repeating. It's not only me and my 550 results… So that's it, the first thing is that obviously, metal is not a music for teenagers, contrary to what can be heard everywhere. It's mostly young adults who are fans of this music.
After that, some answers do appear often… For example, the way to discover this music for the first time. The result is overwhelming here, most said it was by word to mouth, either within the family or with friends.
DM: Sure you don't hear it on the radio!
RC: It is pretty clear, it's not thanks to the media, but by other means… After that there are other elements, but I won't name them all… There are 11 points in that "average metalhead" portrait. But another outstanding point is, well, that it is a music of/for enthusiasts. This means that most people don't only see it as entertainment, they have a much stronger commitment to it. This not a specificity of metal, but it sure is an element.
DM: And, if you had to start your book from scratch again, would there be some important things that you'd change?
RC: Very good question! I'm happy, it's interesting! And so yes, completetly! Because it's clear, I wrote the questionnaire in 2000, and now we're ten years later, and my knowledge about the scene and everything is much greater, my feelings are much more precise. That's only natural, ten years later, I've been to shows, many things that I hadn't done at the time. So it's clear that, for example, question number 16 (I quote from memory), in which I was saying "what is the most attracting to you in metal?" and I was citing each and every imaginable cliché (vampires, gore, Satanism, etc.), well I would ask this one differently. For sure. Because it isn't… It was meant to bring the discussion towards… Well, many people reacted violently, saying "who do you think we are? "… Back then I felt it was awkward. At the same time I had to make people talk about Satanism, but now I would ask this differently. In a smarter way.
DM: And, since it only exists in French, is there a translation in English planned?
RC: Sadly no… If there's someone willing to do it, there's no problem, of course! Well, he sure need to have quite some free time, but it would be nice, I'd like it, really… There once was an American publisher that seemed interested, but well…
DM: Do you plan to write other books on the same theme, or was this one enough?
RC: Well, there'll logically be a second one, but I'm only at the preliminary steps right now. I'll do it was Nicolas Bénard (French wiki page here), who already wrote books about Metal, in particular one called, I think, "La Culture Hard-Rock" ("The Hard-Rock Culture"). Nicolas is a metalhead, and an historian by training, he lives near Paris, and so together we'll write a book about Opeth.
DM: An Opeth biography, with the band's history and stuff?
RC: Yes! [he smiles] I think some people will be happy!
DM: Good ! Now, let's continue with the - obvious - questions about Satanism in metal. What are your reactions towards bands that claim to worship Satan. Whether it's true or not… (I'm thinking about Venom, for example)? Yeah, yeah, usual question, but I had to ask you!
RC: It's tiring! No, really, no… I'm thinking about this question on Satanism, and it's really limited… If there's a question where you can't generalize, where you can't put into any average portrait, it's this one. Why? Because, in my opinion, it is something really personal; and, er, that why I often speak of SatanismS with the plural S. Admittedly this is a theme which can be found in many a metal band, but it's experienced differently by each band, even by each band member!... The problem is there, in a band they are four or five, they have satanic lyrics, but each band member doesn't put the same things in it. You can imagine the complexity of the stuff! This means that we should precisely know each musician, interview him for an hour, to try to understand… You have it, you can see the difficulty to adjudicate about that.
That said, I quite agree with Nicolas Walzer, he's a sociologist, who published a book called "Satan Profane" ("A Profane Satan", literally) on a religious, catholic, publisher… And he shows very well… He develops the thesis of a cultural Satanism.
DM: An atheist Satanism?...
RC: Yeah, exactly, with "cultural" opposed to "religious". And it's really interesting… He shows well that, in the end, metal only exaggerates in an extreme way (which is only logical, as it's an extreme music) a cultural Satanism which existed long before metal! I mean, if one knows a bit about literature, or history of the Arts, or philosophy, all these things…
DM: Like Baudelaire's "Les Fleurs Du Mal"...
RC: That's it. Well it sure is the basic example that everyone knows, but there would be a lot more! Er… Yeah, that's the example I was looking for: Emperor's "Inno A Satana". Well. It's quite weird, has anyone asked the question "why a title in Italian?" ('Inno' is 'hymn' in Italian). And when you search a bit, you find that… Well, I don't remember the name of the author [it is Giosuè Carducci], but it's a very precise reference to a poem written by an Italian author. Well, this is but one example, to show that there's a whole "culture" in which Satan is a figure… Of course there's Goethe's Faust, there are many things, just think about Leo Ferré's "Thank You Satan". And it's some French chanson!
DM: And Ferré wasn't a religious man...
RC: Yeah! But strangely, Catholic groups never asked for Léo Ferré's songs to be censored in any way… Well, you see what I mean.
DM: Still about that stuff, if I remember well, you said somewhere that you didn't forgive Slayer for the antichistian lyrics, even if Tom Araya is a Christian. In the documentary Metal: A Headbanger's Journey, he said that, as an artist, he reflected society, but that "as artists, we pick up the dark reflections". He also added about God Hates Us All, that "God doesn't hate. But that would make a fucking good album title, and it would piss off many people!" What do you think about it?
RC: Well firstly I think that the phrase 'I don't forgive said band for saying this or that things' cannot be mine. I'd be surprised.
Otto: It's more complicated… I first saw it on the Cité Catholique forum [a French Catholic forum], and it all comes from a topic - and I was the one who asked the question - about your position regarding Christians that criticize the Christian religion with their bands and songs. You said that constructive criticism, coming from anyone, didn't bother you, but on the other hand, gratuitous attacks and insults, calls for hate, all that kind of thing, you didn't forgave those, even coming from Christians. And, seeing that you didn't have the opportunity to discuss it with Tom Araya yet, you somehow left the answer waiting. But, it doesn't seem to…
RC: So it's not a question of forgiveness… That's what I always say, and for me it is really important, to distinguish between two different sorts of criticism. The existence of an well-thought, rational criticism of Christianity like, well, philosophers did, is not a problem to me; we are human beings, we have different ideas, we argue about them, well that is perfectly normal to me. After that, it's sure that hate for hate's sake, if you get my drift, or stupid criticism (I was gonna say 'childish'), I consider all that to be… depressing. Yeah, it's it… And I think that it's the cause… that's what gives to metal, and all metal culture, this so negative image. Because it's of course not subtle at all, like all Marduk lyrics that were quoted during the controversy… That's, really… It disgusts me profoundly. But after that, it's not up to me to forgive or me, that is God's business, not mine!
DM: Er… Well, I didn't use the word 'forgive' in the religious, Christian meaning…
RC: Yes, yes, it's really strong, isn't it? Well, now I don't remember what was the question, at first.
DM: It was about your opinion regarding Tom Araya's lyrics, which…
RC: Yes, yes, Tom Araya. Well, true, I know what he said, I heard him during interviews and such, but frankly I have difficulty to put myself in his position… I can't see how I, a Christian, could participate in a band that's overtly antichristian. It seems… psychologically, I can't understand… I know he says it, but I just can't understand his thought process. Anyway, I sure couldn't live that way, it would be too contradictory for me.
O: We could finish with another example, that I remember we talked about on this forum… I don't know if you had the opportunity to discuss with him, but there's a Christian guitarist [Ralph Santolla] playing with Deicide. So, did you speak with him about it?
RC: No, not at all. It's the same! I mean, a Christian guitar player in Deicide… What prevents him from playing in another band? There are some options out there! Why stay in a band like this? Well for me it's… No, it makes me uneasy.
DM: OK. On the other hand, what's your opinion about white metal?
RC: Well, white metal is not something that I have studied in depth. I may be wrong, but it seems to me that it is a minor trend in the metal scene, and mostly localized in the US, Australia, that kind of countries, where these creeds are the majority, let's face it. After that, what's behind white metal? If that's people who say "we play music to convert 'infidels'", well, I think it's a bit… I don't like this approach. Because, for me, music must stay first and foremost Art, that is, something artistic, aesthetic… And if music gives way to a too strong message, well it's propaganda if you ask me. And that is true for those trve Satanists, too. I mean, if a black metal band's goal is to preach about Satan, and not making music, well according to me, it's sure it'll be lame music-wise, because down to the core, you are an artist, not a politician. You can be a committed artist, but that's something else, I believe you have to…
O: Define an order of priority?
RC: Yes, exactly. I consider that an artist's goal is to create beauty…
RC: Of course! Well, after that, not everyone might agree about the definition of beauty, but that's another debate… What is beautiful for someone is not so for someone else, but there's beauty in Metal for me, or else I wouldn't listen to it.
DM: We definitely agree! Now, another related question… Did ever feel, er, a kind of 'divine spark' in metal?
RC: In a metal band? Well, 'divine' is too strong a word, but it's sure that considering the emotions you can feel, what hearing this or that band can create, well it's sure some things are… they are transcendent, they make you travel, they are really out of the ordinary, far removed of everyday life's greyness… It's a music that has, I think, the power to get you out of the tangible, ordinary life, and to me it's one of the reasons why metal has some success - even if relative - with a lot of young people. And well, that's true and… It's hard to explain, it's a feeling.
DM: If I asked you this question, it's because I was specifically thinking about Orphaned Land's latest album. With The Never Ending Way Of ORwarriOR, I had the feeling to somehow, have a little contact with God again; something like meeting again a old friend I hadn't seen for ages… Well, yeah, I did find a 'divine spark' in that album.
RC: Well, coming from Orphaned Land, that's not surprising [he smiles]. Sure, because with Orphaned Land, you know what's their way of thinking, they are people who preach for peace between the great religions of world; they are believers, and they have a beautiful approach, very courageous for Israelis, that must be said too. That and 'well done!' I'm really happy, they are the typical example that's completely on the opposite of what we were discussing earlier, like those simplistic black metal bands. So give this style its spurs, so to say… what they are doing is really beautiful indeed.
DM: Yes! Let's now quickly see what are your tastes, your favorite bands... We already mentioned Opeth earlier, but can you name others?
RC: Well, about the others, it's very… Strangely I think that, er, I'm more attracted to bands that could be called 'underground', or at least less-known, or that are appreciated in a very particular circle… Take Dornenreich for example, it's not THE big metal band that everyone knows... And it's one of my favourites. Er… I'll say the same thing about Shining…
DM & O: Shining?!!
RC: Yes. I think it's… Sure, I very well know what he did and all that, I'm speaking about his music, obviously. But that's truly the kind of bands I really like because, in Shining, the emotions are really very, very strong. It's the opposite of Dimmu Borgir. I'll tell you, acoording to me there are two main kinds of metal: there's Dimmu Borgir, and there's Shining. And all that is on Shining's side, I like.
DM: Ah, I wouldn't have bet on that one! Well, now, we'll tackle the subjects of Catholicism and the Hellfest debate. First things first, are there any specificities in France, like a 'French Catholic way'? Apart from the fact that France is a non-religious country, which, well, probably changes some things.
RC: Yes. I believe that you're completely right when you speak of a 'French Catholic way', because, even when you only consider Europe, with its old Christian traditions, France had really a turbulent history for its relationship with Christianity, and this explains a lot of things today. In particular, with our famous French Revolution in 1789, and all that followed. And so, contrary to other European countries, in France the secularization of the link between Church and state has been done brutally. So it's not for nothing that Catholic fundamentalism was born in France.
DM: It has?
RC: Oh, yes! Oh, yes! It is a French creation. Yes, yes, it must be said. All our debates about celebrating the Mass in Latin, blablabla, three Catholics out of four, in the world, don't give a shit about it! This is really a French thing! Yes, it has to be known, to put things in perspective. Even if French people still have the knack to export their best and worst stuff. So, of course, we spread our fundamentalism in North America, in a whole lot of countries in the world, but I mean, this is a French thing. See, the crisis that followed Vatican II, it's in France that it was the strongest. Because, I think, in France, we Catholics do have difficulties to behave in a moderate way; either people will choose an over-the-top progressivism, where Tradition is completely destroyed… And that was the case after Vatican II in many parishes in France: everything was thrown away, statues of saints were put in the trash bin…
DM & O: Really?!!
RC: Oh, yes, sure! It was extreme, and it naturally provoked an opposite extreme reaction, as always extremes trigger off each other. So we had Mgr Lefebvre, who is the father of fundamentalism in France… Yes, on the other side, really unyielding, fossilized, nostalgic for Christendom, which means they're nostalgic for an historical form of Christianity. What they don't want to understand is that Christendom is not Christianity, it is [he insists] an historical form of Christianity that started with Constantine. It's true that it's ancient, but well, it's not a reason to say that it was what Jesus wanted; this is something else. And so, in France, the Catholics are (whether we want it or not) quite divided, and let's say it again, mostly about the relation between the Church and the world. Or, to put it differently, the relation between believers and non-believers. Yes, how do you see this relationship? Do we consider ourselves as a besieged fortress, the last Gaulish village that always resists invasion? If so, we denounce the permeating reign of evil around us, and we are the best, we are the elite and all the others are terrible sinners; well, that is the fundamentalist way. After that, there's all the rest.
DM: So this, in the end, is what explains why the conflict between metal and the Church is much more important here in France, while in, say, Finland or Germany, there aren't any problems.
RC: Exactly. You have the answer.
DM: OK. Well, that cool, you already answered the next question!
O: Also, there was a Catholic metalhead on this forum, who lives in Germany, and who said that over there, the Church was much more powerful, especially since the state is not secular the way it is in France. And that's the reason why metal festivals don't frighten them that much… Do you agree with his way of thinking?
RC: I think that, sadly [he hesitates], many Catholics, if they are honest (even if they say the contrary on internet forums), feel very well that convinced Catholics - I speak about conviction, not about baptism registries, that's something else - became a minority in France. It's a sure thing. In our churches, whether we want it or not, even if there are exceptions, young people are not the majority. It's simply a statement of fact. And then, well, there's a metal fest with 60000 young people! And well, I mean, isn't there a bit of jealousy behind that? Or, I mean, envy? You see what I mean? Come to think of it, it's funny, the AFC representative's response during the conference was to tell Ben Barbaud to "come to the WYD in Madrid"! So, in the end, it's really interesting, because that man had totally understood that Hellfest was to metalheads what the WYD was to Christians. That's all.
DM: It's true one can compare both events. Anyway, er… Where, in this conflict between Catholic integrists on one hand, and metalheads who can be as extreme in the other, would you say you're standing?
RC: In the middle! [he laughs] It's not easy! [laughs again] Well of course I try to stay true to the course I set in my book in my study… I always said that I had written this book as much for Catholics than for metalheads (and we should add the third category, the Catholic metalheads, because some people belong to both). And so this book is a 'bridge', a 'link' between two sides, two shores that eye each other from afar, that ignore, turn their back on, or even hate, the other. And this is the goal of my book. And this is where I stand, too. It's not for nothing that I've been subjected to really violent attacks, both from some black metalheads and from some Catholics. Because they all too well understood that I didn't want to take sides in a, say, stubborn way: for these ones, against the others…
DM: While both sides extremists would like you to clearly take sides, saying that the other is 'The Evil'… or 'The Good!' (laughs)
RC: Well they can wait!
Father Culat taking a metal pose
DM: You say you wrote this book for Christians, too. Did you have any commentaries or reactions coming from Catholic people? I mean, maybe I'm wrong, but it seems to me most of your readers were metalheads…
RC: That is something that's really difficult for me to know, who bought the books… Well, I did have feedback from Catholics… I often cite an example: a very pious, very Catholic, mother that reconciled with her metalhead son thanks to my book. That, of course, is very pleasing, because it shows I've reached my goal. These people even invited me in their home for a few days, it was something quite extraordinary indeed.
DM: Also, how do you react to the fierce attacks that some fundamentalists (whether Catholics or metalheads) target at you?
RC: I believe that by definition, whether they come from 'La Horde Noire' for metal, or 'La Question' for Catholic integrists - let's say their names, it's clearer that way ['Horde Noire' means 'black horde', while 'la Question' is the name of torture by the Inquisition] - given the low standard of their attacks, it's better not to react, it's a sterile waste of time… It's that way, you have to accept it. I have no choice, but… pfft…
DM: And, concerning the Catholic fundamentalism, not considering the publicity they involuntarily made for Hellfest (it's in the end thanks to Christine Boutin that TV journalists when to visit the Hellfest office), don't we risk that their attacks might make matters worse?
RC: It is a real risk, because people from e-Deo, La Question, and stuff (see, I don't allude to anyone else) are not the kind of people to let things go… So I think they'll continue their fight because for them it's the fight between good and evil. Well, after that there are laws, in France. And as long as Hellfest is not considered illegal by the authorities, I don't see what… I don't understand, the AFC lost their lawsuit, I hope they won't do make another one each year, because they'll lose a lot of money for nothing. I mean, it's… It's sure that when you tell La Question some stuff like this, they tell you: "we don't recognize this secular state, it sucks, and the Republic sucks too". Maybe, but for now, that's the law we live with, unless someone takes arms and starts a revolution. That said, what I'm fearing is that, one day, some rowdy fanatics come in front of Hellfest's gate to protest with some banners, in an aggressive way, and that it all goes downhill from there… A big fight, I mean. It would be really… It would be pathetic.
DM: And that's true this could happen. So, about the AFC's, and the summary judgment that followed… What were your reactions?
RC: Well, that's a bit what I've said during the Hellfest conference, I think… In the end, as a Catholic, I wonder (and there I voluntarily widen the debate) if we have the instinctive reaction to ask ourselves the following question (and that is THE essential question, if you ask me): "what would have done Christ, in said situation, in my place?" So, do you, yes you, imagine Jesus Christ, because he is insulted, or because people are against him, or because people disagree with him, do you think he'll take them to court? No.
DM: No, he would have tried to discuss with them.
RC: Yes. That's all, the answer is here! At some point, we have to go back to our Christian roots, and we have to act like Christians! Sure, ask for censorship, suing in courts, this might be pleasing… You believe you're in a sort of crusade for Good, and I don't doubt the sincerity of the people who did that; but, I always take this example because… When Christ was on the cross, some people ridiculed him, insulted him… The absolute blasphemy was here, not during Hellfest! And what did He say? He said "forgive them, they don't know what they're doing." He didn't say "send them the police, the riot squads, the court, the angels…"
O: That's a topic that popped up often on the forums with metalheads and Christians… I'd say there's a difference of behavior between both communities, who don't have the same way to react to aggressions. Metalheads are somewhat used to be seen in a bad light, so… they mildly insult other people, they get the same, it ends there and… That's a normal situation. Catholics usually don't look for trouble and would be delighted if no one insulted them. So it's true these differences add to the lack of understanding between both. And it seemed to me that moderate Catholics don't want to put metalheads on trial, they'd rather see them take responsibilities and practice self-censorship for this kind of lyrics. I also had the impression that the AFC didn't really wanted to have those lyrics judged, but they did that to somehow give the festival a sense of responsibility… But don't you think that this kind of demand is a bit… impossible? Doesn't it come from a lack of knowledge of the music world? Wouldn't it put the festival at odds with the bands, who could simply boycott an organization that demands them this kind of…
RC: It's sure that when you think of it, ask for self-censorship to a metal community, it's like asking a punk to be BCBG [a French acronym 'bon chic bon genre', meaning 'good style, good class']! Well… Pfff… You know what I mean! The biggest theme in metal music, that transcend all styles, be it black, heavy, is… I'd say, even more than provocation, it's this sort of massive affirmation of liberty.
RC: For me it's something that really stands out! Even in heavy metal! Sure, metalheads don't have the same vision of liberty than the Catholics, it's sure… But asking something like self-censorship to a subculture that's always claiming "freedom! freedom! freedom!", well of course I can't see how it can happen. The only thing I would say… I'd almost move the debate, let's say I reopen it on a different theme, from the lyrics to the imagery. It's personal, as I feel it, but I'm almost a lot more shocked by, for example, Godseed's staging than by Watain's lyrics. It's my point of view. Because, with Godseed, it's not only lyrical, it's visual too, and in a festival the visual aspect is very important, it gives very strong impressions. And these things seemed to me… They shocked me deeply. So I told myself, "maybe the festival organization could be watchful concerning some visuals in this vein?' It seems wise to me. But well… Oh, some other things shocked me too. I don't know if it's the first year, you'll tell me, but this year I saw a whole lot of T-shirts - and no I'm not talking about the famous Marduk one - 'Christians To The Lions'.
DM: That's Behemoth.
RC: I didn't know…
DM: Since they were there this year…
RC: Ah. Well I saw quite a few, and I think it's the kind of things that… That, of course, doesn't help to initiate the discussion, or to foster comprehension and mutual sympathy, because these are very, very harsh things. Sure, I don't know how one could control T-shirts the fans ar wearing, but still…!
O: In the end, it's really more direct and comprehensible, compared to the lyrics, with, well, grunts…
RC: Indeed. So, I would move the debate to the visual part that you can see, for example, on a site like the Hellfest. Because… Once again, on the whole, I feel more threatened when I see a guy who wears "Christians to the lions" than by a guy who screams "graahhwhaaahgrrrrrr". With that, you're not speaking about Art. The T-shirt is a T-shirt, it's some clothing, while the grunt is supposed to be Art, to be music.
DM: True, it can be seen as a advertising slogan, it can be seen that way…
RC: Well, after that, I didn't know it was a Behemoth song.
The Behemoth shirt
O: It's like "Fuck Me Jesus", I didn't know at first that it was a song title, but it's very explicit on the T-shirt.
RC: I think anyway that is the kind of clothes… I would approve a kind of self-censoring at this level, about the pictures, because… Well, I don't know, you've certainly seen at the Extreme Market [name of merch area on the Hellfest grounds], I imagine, so… There were images that were… very edgy, but well, after that…
DM: "Shrugs", then (laughs). To finish on a lighter note, tell us what you've seen at Hellfest!
RC: (amused) Well, in fact, er… I've be chased by people like you the whole time, so I didn't see many things… Between reporters, the TVs, the meeting, and all other stuff, I only saw four bands in two days. I wasn't there on Friday, but I only saw four bands on Saturday and Sunday. Of those four, it Katatonia that I loved the most; it wasn't a surprise, as I already saw them, it's a band that I really like, so it was a very good moment. Well, I also went to see Immortal, because, see, it's an important name so I told myself "hey, let's see them", but er… yeah, the staging is beautiful… there's quite a lot of noise, of effects, but well, it's sure I would have preferred to be a few years ago and see Emperor, that's for sure! But it's personal tastes (laughs)! Seriously, this was good! You know, it was my first big metal festival, I already went to one when I was in Germany, a tiny tiny tiny unknown one, and I stayed for only two hours, so… What impressed me, first, was the organization; I say 'well done!' because I found it all to be really straight, even the playing hours, that's crazy. That, and the site layout was great, with the food corner, all that was good, I really liked the adornment, with all these recycled old corrugated iron sheets and bits; at night, it was magical, there were all these flames, these fires, it was a whole world, and it wasn't neutral, it blended well with the rest. The decoration does matter, once again I'm really receptive to everything visual, so sure I enjoyed it. After that, I wasn't surprised by what I saw, I was totally what I expected, once again it's the World Youth Day - metal style.
DM: At the World Youth Day, you're sure they drink that many beers, and that there are that many drunkards? (smiles)
RC: No, no no, there's far less beer, even if you can surely find some… What I can say is that, one year, the World Youth Day was in Köln, Germany, and I was there; well, during the evening, there sure were many people in the pubs… (laughs)
O: Maybe you can add something about the global mood of the fest...?
RC: Well, a World Youth Day mood… Well, I say that but it's true, it is a festival… Even if this year there were old rock'n'rollers, who brought in an older audience, and quite a few of them, it stays, whether we like it or not, a festival for the youth, with a young audience, and all that goes with that: they didn't came here to be dead serious, there's all the festive aspect, the 'partying with friends' part, and that is plain to see… And at a same time, the mood… Well I know it's really the thing NOT to be said, it's provocation on my part, but it's a bit an hippie mood, really nice and cool…
DM: Now the last thing I'll ask of you is to read this article by Dane Train, who's another Metalstorm member, and a Protestant pastor. And then tell me what's your opinion about it! Beware, it's in English!
RC: Oh, Lord! And it's long!
(… reads …)
So I quickly read the text, now I'm waiting for the complete, corrected translation in French (smiles). No, I'm really… it's… I agree 100% with all that's in there, especially there, third paragraph, when he says that, if Jesus came back today, it could well be that some very good Catholics (Christians) would be the first to crucify Him. Well, 'very good'… those that think they are very good Catholics.
Also, what he says about the way to see the world… It concurs with a whole paragraph I developed as an annex, in my book, about the "blissfully happy Christian optimism". In the end, it's true that for many metalheads, their critic of a certain Christianity was built upon the fact that, well, there was no realism in this religion, especially with, as he says, "hey, you'll see, if you believe everything's gonna be fine, you won't have problems anymore…" This is a distortion of Christ's message, because He didn't say "if you believe in me you'll be alright", struggling is never something that' put out of human life…
DM: So, any last word for the Metalstorm readers?
RC: One last word, like, right now? Er… I'm tired! (laughs) I am tired [in English, this time!].
DM: Well thanks a lot!
||Posted on 30.12.2010 by Once your regular Hellfest reporter, now retired. I (strangely enough) listen to a lot of metal. And enjoy good beers, comics, novels and role-playing games.|
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